PARK RIDGE — Niles North junior Tony Granato tore a ligament in his left shoulder and partially separated it while trying to make a tackle in practice as the Vikings prepared to play Glenbrook South.
The prognosis was bleak when Granato initially went to the doctor.
“When the doctor first analyzed me, he told me the season was probably going to be over, unless I got on my rehab,” said Granato, who was the team’s starting quarterback for the first three weeks of the season and was preparing to also play free safety against the Titans when he was injured. “I’m young, so it healed extra fast.”
Granato was forced to sit out Glenbrook South’s 46-7 victory over the Vikings on Sept. 20, as well as Niles North’s 29-27 win against Maine West one week later.
He said he did resistance band and weight exercises with the trainers at Niles North to strengthen and rehabilitate his non-throwing shoulder.
Granato was cleared to play by his doctor on Sept. 30, and he spent the next three days practicing with his teammates as they prepared to play Maine East on Friday.
Granato returned against the Blue Demons, splitting time at quarterback with senior Charlie Long, and he played like he never missed any action. Granato went 3-for-6 passing for 51 yards. He threw a touchdown as time expired in the first half, and he ran for 12 yards on three carries in Niles North’s 41-0 victory. The Vikings improved to 3-3 overall and 2-0 in the CSL North.
Although Granato’s statistics weren’t overwhelming, he helped open up the running game for sophomore Barrington Wade, who finished with 232 yards on 20 carries.
Instead of Maine East’s defense being able to key solely on Wade, the Blue Demons had to respect Granato’s ability to keep the ball and make plays with his feet. Granato played three series in the first half against Maine East, and the Vikings — who play host to Glenbrook North (3-3, 2-0) on Friday — scored touchdowns on all three of those drives.
Granato didn’t have to run very much against Maine East, but Niles North coach Mark Egofske said Granato will likely run more in the coming weeks. Egofske added that he anticipates sticking with a two-quarterback system, but additional plays will be added into the offense for Granato.
“There’s no doubt that Granato’s got a little bit more quick to him and some of the offense we didn’t even have in, some of our veer option, that wasn’t even in there to use to his advantage,” Egofske said. “He worked pretty damn hard to get that (shoulder) back going. We’re fortunate to have him at this point, no doubt.”